Resurrection, as I argue elsewhere, is a scary thing. Since today’s Easter, at least in the western Christian world, people are—or should be—thinking about resurrection. In the case of Jesus, a young man who died “before his time,” resurrection seems only fair. Indeed, in the earliest biblical hints of the concept it applied to people in precisely that category. The story’s different for older folk who are beginning to wear out and are ready to go to a better place. Christianity made the idea of resurrection more palatable by stating that you get a new and better body next time around. The creeds say, after all, “the resurrection of the body.” Heaven, it seems, is an embodied location. Resurrection is necessary to get there.
Horror writers and film makers have used revenants to great effect. When they do, pop culture latches on. Think about the vampire craze of the early 2000s. Or the ongoing fascination with zombies. Even your basic garden-variety ghost. They’re all revenants that attract and repel us. We’re not quite sure what to make of life after death. It’s okay if it’s played out beyond human senses, but as much as we want life to go on we don’t want to witness it here. Horror films like to play on this ambiguity. They’re closely related to religious ideas. I’m occasionally asked why I watch horror; it’s essentially the same question as why I study religion. Sometimes you just need to look closely enough to find the connection. Resurrection, as I discuss in Holy Horror, is tied to some of humanity’s most basic fears.
Just two days prior to Easter, Good Friday in fact, Lorraine Warren passed away. A fervent believer in resurrection, she was half of the dynamic paranormal investigating couple of Ed and Lorraine, about whom I’ve posted from time to time. This coincidental occurrence illustrates once again the connection between resurrection and horror. The Warrens were fond of declaring that haunting spirits of the human kind were those that had not passed over into the next world. Revenants were confused spirits (not to be mistaken as demons, which were something completely different). Resurrection, presumably, awaits just the other side of the veil. Clearly religion shares this roadmap with horror. Just as the Warrens will be resurrected as characters in this summer’s forthcoming Annabelle Comes Home, such returns to life may take many forms. It’s Easter for some of us, and it can integrate horror and hope, if viewed a particular, perhaps peculiar, way.